Writing skills are critical, even crucial, for career success. It's easier to make a good impression if you're good at business writing. However, if you don't convey the message clearly with your words, your chances of getting jobs, promotions, raises, and bonuses might be diminished.
Writing well, whether you're sending a cover letter to a hiring manager, a memo to a colleague, a report to your team, or an email to a client, signals that you're organized, knowledgeable and detail-oriented.
The opposite is also true: long-winded, imprecise or typo-filled written communications leave readers wondering how you handle other aspects of your position. Now is the time to improve your business writing skills.
What are some ways to improve your writing skills?
1. Possess the right mindset
Gather the necessary resources before beginning any writing project, including research materials. As you begin, you'll be more relaxed if you're prepared. Great writing does not happen by accident. Before placing your first finger on the keyboard, take a moment to organize your thoughts and identify the primary purpose of your written communication. To whom are you writing? When people finish reading what you've written, what do you want them to know or do? Keep these answers in mind as you write.
2. Organize it
Make sure you have a game plan. What is your main message? If you handwrite all the key points you want to mention in advance, you won't forget any. Make an outline of what you want to cover in a logical order. This is especially useful for documents that cover many topics.
3. Write clearly and concisely
People with strong written communication skills know it's critical to get straight to the point with any message or else you may lose your audience. With emails, texts, the web, memos, and reports, people are inundated with information - and they aren't willing to read long messages.
Additionally, many people fill their written communications with buzzwords, cliches, jargon, and pretentious language. This only confuses the message. Think of "let's have a quick meeting" instead of "let's align and synergize our deliverables." Impress your readers with your thoughts, not your corporate-speak proficiency. Overused cliches and fancy words won't be missed.
KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is a wise philosophy to follow. Use bullets or numbers to separate individual points in comprehensive reports (like we did with this blog post). Avoid industry jargon and acronyms. In case you use too many confusing or annoying abbreviations, your audience may move on to another pressing task, missing your message.
4. Maintain a professional attitude
When you're working to improve your written communication skills, be careful not to write about controversial or sensitive topics. That's easier said than done. Who wouldn't like joking around with coworkers in emails about a ridiculous new policy? Though you never know when your email or another message will be forwarded. Consider whether the entire company - including your boss - will be able to read what you wrote when in doubt.
5. Please check it again - and again
As you argue for updating the office's phone system, you might feel confident about your written communication skills. You work so quickly on your masterpiece, however, that the document is filled with typos and spelling errors. It's okay, you tell yourself. You'll just run a spellcheck, and everything will be fine, right?
Wrong. Spellcheck can miss a wide range of errors. Spend a few minutes rereading messages yourself, and even have someone else read them aloud to you.
Practice your written communication skills and always check your writing for typos, tone, and clarity. In this way, you'll be able to convey your message clearly and impress people for the right reasons.